Proposed Civic Engagement Commission would connect community boards with land use experts and training based on community board needs. In February 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a Charter Revision Commission. The Commission began holding public meetings in April. On September 4, 2018, the New York City Charter Revision Commission released its final report on its recommended charter amendments. The final report discussed several topics, including land use and community boards.
One of the ballot proposals is the creation of a Civic Engagement Commission. The Civic Engagement Commission would consist of fifteen members: eight appointed by the Mayor with at least one member from both the largest and second largest political parties; two appointed by the Speaker of the City Council; and one appointed by each Borough President. The Civil Engagement Commission would work to “enhance civic participation” by working with community-based organizations and civic leaders. Part of this work would include providing community boards with resources and training for land use matters.
Developers submit Uniform Land Use Review Procedure applications to the Department of City Planning. The project is certified when all the required paperwork is submitted. The project is then submitted to the local community board to issue an advisory decision about the project before the project is sent to the Borough President. The community board has only sixty days to review the proposal, hold public hearings and issue a decision. This is an extremely limited time frame to examine complex effects of a proposed development on infrastructure, transportation, local schools, housing, and other community needs. Members of community boards are volunteers who come from a range of backgrounds with various levels of land use experience. The limited time frame and the lack of familiarity with land use issues for some community boards can impede a community board’s ability to make an appropriate recommendation for any given project.
Through the Civic Engagement Commission, community boards will have additional access to urban planning resources to assist them when reviewing land use projects. The Civic Engagement Commission would be responsible for finding qualified firms, professional staff, or consultants to provide community boards with assistance and training in urban planning or other technical assistance dealing with land use. The Commission would need to ensure that resources are accessible to all community boards by request. The Commission must give resources neutrally and impartially. The Commission would also be required to find professionals who have no stake in the outcome of any particular land use proposal.
This proposal will appear on the ballot in the November 13, 2018 election. If approved by the voters, the Civic Engagement Commission would begin on April 1, 2019.
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)